In conversation with Ranbir Kapoor on films, mistakes and working with Karan Johar

 

What was it like growing up in the Kapoor household? Could you live a normal, unfettered life and amass any life experiences?

I did live a free life as much as I could. I just grew up in a protective Indian family. The fact that it’s a film family is irrelevant. But, I have lived my life freely. I studied and lived alone in New York City for four years. That was great experience and exposure. I studied film-making, direction and acting. Whatever work I do is a result of my life so far, my exposure to the world and my travels. The one thing I wish I had done, which would be hard to do now, is a good road trip around India.

Did you toy with the idea of getting into direction?

I have always loved the movies and not just harboured an ambition to be only an actor. At one point I was confused whether I wanted to act or produce or direct. Direction is still an idea — absolutely. But, I don’t have a story to tell yet, and also the more directors I work with, whether it is Anurag Basu or Anurag Kashyap, Ayan Mukerji or Imtiaz Ali, I realise it is not an easy job. You need to be selfless to do so much work for other people and let them take the credit for it. I think the achievement and glory is far more than an actor will ever feel, and I aspire to that but not yet.

Ranbir Kapoor

Unlike your peers, your choices have been unconventional and unpredictable. Is it a conscious decision to explore and challenge yourself?

Yes, I am exploring different facets and challenging myself as an actor but, to be honest, the bigger challenge would be to follow in the footsteps of Shah Rukh Khan or Salman Khan. These masala films come easily to me. But, a Wake Up Sid, Rocket Singh, Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani, Rajneeti, Barfi!, Rockstar and so on have no pattern, no reference point or a genre seen before. In the world of films and in the arts, if you do what you believe in and what comes naturally to you, there’s nothing better than that. You will not succeed if you follow someone else’s career path. You have to find yourself in your work, work with good people and constantly reinvent yourself. The time has gone when an actor was a caricature of himself and doing the same thing repeatedly. I think in today’s day and age, the term star or superstar is going to get diminished and content is going to be the new superstar. I guess I can pat my back on the fact that I recognised that. That and the director’s desire to tell a story are much greater than what I am trying to make myself out to be onscreen.

Ranbir Kapoor in Bombay Velvet

Ranbir Kapoor in Bombay Velvet 




In the last eight years, you have seen highs and lows. How do you cope with this?

I am very grateful for that and for all the love, respect, encouragement I get as well as the forgiveness I get for my mistakes. The films that didn’t work were as important as the ones that did. When a film is super successful, it gives you a ticket for another two films, and the audience is interested and waits for your next film. But, when your film is a flop, like Besharam was, the audience is a little suspicious — will he deliver? That gives you a reality check even if you have given hits and won awards, that it’s not over; there’s a long road ahead with lots of bumps. You have to constantly challenge yourself, constantly entertain and do different characters. So, I regard failure more strongly than success. The failure of my first film, Saawariya, was also a huge learning curve for me. It made me understand that people gave the film a chance and were interested to see what Rishi Kapoor’s son or Raj Kapoor’s grandson could do in cinema. But, you cannot take the audience for granted, which is what I did in Besharam. I thought I’d say four dialogues, do some action, there will be songs, and it will be a huge hit.

Does all the media and social media attention bother you?

I have nothing against tabloid conjecture and gossip. We actors cannot take our lives so seriously. It’s not like we are saving the world — we are not doctors or NASA engineers. We’re a part of showbiz, so people are interested in knowing what clothes we wear, where we are going to dinner and with who, when we are getting married. I understand the need for such news, but there is a fine line. Because of this kind of tabloid culture and with the rise of the paparazzi in India, things have gotten a bit wild. With mobile phone cameras and Indians all over the world who recognise you, things get leaked. Having said that, I have no complaints. When I feel something is wrong I try and express it and correct it in my manner. I don’t disrespect the media and vice versa. They have patted my back when I have done well and also pulled my pants down when I have been incorrect. But, I try to put a stop to things when they cross the fine line.

Ranbir Kapoor

What are you looking forward to working on next?

There’s Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil [with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Anushka Sharma] and Ayan’s superhero film. Karan is challenging his own content. In Tamasha, I played an urban character, while in Jagga Jasoos I play an 18-year-old with a stammer who becomes a detective. Ayan wants to make a trilogy and spend the next ten years of his life making a Lord-of-the-Rings-meets-Harry-Potter-meets-Matrix. I am very excited to be working with all these guys.